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Video Game Celebs We Lost In 2019

A lot of love and hard work goes into making the video game industry what it is. There are designers and programmers who have spent their lives making your favorite games and franchises, often finding new ways of innovating the medium and delivering something exciting and new. There are directors and composers, actors and advertisers, all of whom have a hand in bringing joy to the screens of gamers around the world.

There are even those fans who become a part of the culture themselves. Livestreaming has led to the rise of talented and passionate commentators and streamers on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, giving them a place to share their love for the craft, criticism, and culture of video games. 

Sadly, we lost some bright stars in the world of gaming in 2019. Let us pay our respects to some of those entertainers and creators.

Desmond "Etika" Amofah

Desmond Amofah, better known to fans as Etika, was a YouTuber known for his boisterous reaction videos, particularly in regards to Nintendo products. In the years since he began streaming and posting videos, he had gained more than 800,000 fans. Sadly, an escalating pattern of behavior arose in his output within the last year. In October 2018, he was banned from YouTube and Twitch for violating terms of conduct. He also began posting things to his social media accounts that hinted explicitly toward suicidal thoughts, at one point being detained by police during a livestream when concerned fans alerted them of his comments.

On June 19, 2019, Amofah was reported missing on the same day that he uploaded a video apologizing to his fans and friends and elaborating on his struggles with suicidal thoughts and anxiety, essentially saying goodbye to his fans. His body was recovered by the NYPD on June 25. Amofah was 29 years old. 

In the weeks since Amofah's sad disappearance and death, fans and fellow YouTubers have worked to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention, with PewDiePie donating £8,000 to a charity he started with Jack Black in Etika's honor.

Geoff "iNcontroL" Robinson

Geoff Robinson, known by his online handle "iNcontroL," was a prominent professional StarCraft player, notably becoming one of the first people to test StarCraft 2 before its release. He has become a major positive force in the gaming community through his work as an esports commentator and livestreamer. He was also the co-host of The Pylon Show, a StarCraft-themed talk show and podcast. Following the news of Robinson's sudden passing in July 2019, the show went on a hiatus. 

A post to Robinson's social media accounts read, "With immense grief, we announce Geoff's unexpected passing due to sudden illness Saturday. We ask privacy as his family works to understand what happened and make arrangements." The statement also encouraged fans to donate to Southern California Bulldog Rescue, a group dedicated to sheltering and caring for homeless bulldogs. In the days following this statement, tributes and kind words have poured in from friends, fans, and esports players from all over, who remember him as a fun and encouraging person, exemplifying the kindness and inclusion that one would hope for in the gaming community. 

Ryan Brant

Ryan Brant passed away in March at the age of 47 as a result of cardiac arrest. Brant had a lengthy career in video games, founding Take-Two Interactive (the publisher behind the juggernaut Grand Theft Auto franchise) in 1993, which in turn led to the formation of Rockstar Games in 1998, where he served as CEO until 2001 and Vice President until 2006. Essentially, the gaming landscape would look very different without the companies that he brought into existence.

This sentiment was a echoed by Rockstar Games President Sam Houser. In a statement released through Twitter, Houser said, "I was devastated to hear the news of Ryan Brant's passing ... he took a chance by allowing us to create Rockstar Games under the Take-Two label ... Ryan's efforts for us and others helped shape the industry as we know it."

According to Brant's official obituary, fans and loved ones are encouraged to make donations in his name to Reading Is Fundamental, a non-profit children's literacy organization.

Patrick Munnik

In June 2019, Patrick Munnik, the lead producer at Guerrilla Games, passed away at the age of 44. In his tenure with the company, he worked on such titles as Killzone: Shadow Fall and the award-winning Horizon: Zero Dawn

"It is with great shock and sadness we inform you that our lead producer Patrick Munnik is no longer with us," said Guerrilla Games in a statement on Twitter. "We are eternally grateful to have had our greatly valued and much loved Patrick on our team." 

Though no cause of death has been revealed through Guerilla's statement, we do know that Munnik leaves behind many dedicated friends and family, some of whom have shared their condolences and fond memories of Munnik on social media. On Twitter, Herman Hulst, Guerilla's Managing Director, wrote, "My heart aches for Patrick's wife and children. His reassuring presence, his great humor, and most importantly, his friendship will be sorely missed." 

Alec Holowka

The music composer and co-creator of indie darling Night in the Woods, Alec Holowka, passed away in late August at the age of 35. A Night in the Woods was crowdfunded, notably surpassing its goals, and the game went on to win numerous awards

In the weeks preceding his death, Holowka was accused of physical and emotional abuse, as well as sexual misconduct by multiple people in the industry. These allegations led to the team behind Night in the Woods cutting ties with Holowka.

A statement released from Holowka's sister read, "Alec was a victim of abuse and he also spent a lifetime battling mood and personality disorders. I will not pretend that he was not also responsible for causing harm, but deep down he was a person who wanted only to offer people care and kindness. It took him a while to figure out how ... Obviously, change is a slow process and it wasn't perfect but he was working towards rehabilitation and a better life." She went on to thank several crisis centers and Holowka's friends and collaborators for the help they offered during this difficult period of time. 

John Kirby

In early October, John Kirby passed away at the age of 79 due to complications arising from a cancer of the blood. As noted by The New York Times, John Kirby was "a prominent attorney whose clients ranged from the video-game maker Nintendo, to Pepsi and America Online." He also worked for the Justice Department and helped to personally escort African American schoolchildren to segregated schools during the 1960s, also assisting the work that would go on to form the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

In the world of video games, he is best known for defending Nintendo from a lawsuit filed against them by Universal Studios, who saw Nintendo's Donkey Kong as an infringement of their King Kong copyright. He was able to argue that Universal had previously considered King Kong to be in the public domain, meaning it was perfectly legal for Nintendo to create a derivative character. 

Over the years, Nintendo showed their gratitude for John Kirby in a few different ways, including gifting him a sailboat named Donkey Kong, in honor of the victory the brought them. But Nintendo also named the beloved character of Kirby after him, ensuring a long-lasting legacy in the world of video games.

Craig Goodman

Craig Goodman, a principal technical artist at Insomniac Games, passed away on Oct. 14, 2019, following a battle with brain cancer that had lasted several years. During his time with Insomniac Games, Goodman worked on such high profile projects as Ratchet & Clank and Marvel's Spider-Man. A statement from Insomniac read, "Those of us who had the privilege to know Craig in health and illness will remember him for the infectious joy he brought into our lives."

Goodman leaves behind a wife and two children. Those wishing to make a donation toward Goodman's family or to leave words of encouragement and sympathy can do so at their GoFundMe page. The fundraiser's organizer, Shell Byers, has expressed gratitude toward those who have helped the family through this difficult time, saying in an Oct. 15 GoFundMe update, "I really feel like all I say is thank you, but you know ... that words cannot come close to encompassing the power and weight of love you all are sharing."

Other video game veterans we lost

There were many other folks in the game industry that we bid farewell to in 2019. Among them is Steve Bak (pictured), most notable for his programming work on the Atari ST, who passed in February. Bak worked on such titles as Goldrunner and Return to Genesis, scrolling shoot-em-ups that challenged industry notions of what was possible with the available technology. 

Another notable loss was programmer Stephen Ash, who is remembered for his work with studios like LucasArts, Double Fine, and id Software. Ash's final work can be seen in Doom Eternal. 2019 also saw the loss of composers Steve Henifen, who wrote the music for games like Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Metal Gear Solid 5, and Remi Gazel, who wrote the music for the original Rayman.

Also of note is the passing of Andy O'Neil, who was Vice President and founder of Bluepoint Games. O'Neil formerly worked with Acclaim and Retro Studios, where he worked as a lead technical engineer on the first two installments of the beloved Metroid Prime series.